NBA 2013-2014 Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks
Last Season: 44-38 (Finished 6th in the Eastern Conference) | Prediction: 46-36 | Key Losses: PF Josh Smith, PG Devin Harris
The Atlanta Hawks certainly had a busy off-season after the Indiana Pacers ousted them in the first round of the 2013 playoffs. Unfortunately, the moves that new GM Danny Ferry made, will unlikely make them neither a NBA championship contender, nor a contender for the Eastern Conference title.
Notable Free Agent Signings: C Elton Brand, PF Paul Millsap, SG Kyle Korver (re-signed with the Hawks), PG Jeff Teague (Hawks matched offer sheet)
The Hawks were ranked near the bottom of the league (23rd) in rebounds per game last season and have certainly made than an area that they hope to improve this upcoming season. After losing their top scorer and second-leading rebounder, Josh Smith, to the Detroit Pistons, the Hawks have signed free agents Elton Brand and Paul Millsap.
Brand is entering his 15th year in the league and doesn’t have many seasons left in his injury-plagued body. While his All-star days are clearly over, Brand is still a premier rebounder and will certainly boost the Hawks bench woes.
Millsap, on the other hand, is in his prime, and has always been an underrated player when he was with the Utah Jazz. An efficient scorer and rebounder, Millsap will play a vital role in filling the scoring void left by Smith.
Smith had a tendency to take long two-pointers and settle for contested shots, something that often doomed the Hawks during close games. Both Brand and Millsap are career 50% shooters, meaning the Hawks will receive a higher dosage of efficient shooting as a result of these two signings for the upcoming season.
The Hawks also re-signed sharpshooting Kyle Korver and high-flying Jeff Teague. Fourth-year veteran Teague has shown remarkable improvement and maturity since being drafted by the Hawks in 2009 and has improved exponentially each season.
Atlanta was wise to match the Milwaukee Bucks 4-year, $32 million offer sheet to Teague as there is still so much untapped potential remaining in the point guard. By retaining Korver, Atlanta keeps one of the league’s best three-point shooters on the roster and gives them the ability to spread the floor when they decide to go big.
Notable Draft Picks: C Lucas “Babe” Nogueira, PG Dennis Schroder, and PF Mike Muscala
Many critics lauded the Hawks for their draft picks this year. They drafted quality players in the first round and got an absolute steal in Mike Muscala with the 44th pick. While Lucas Nogueira may not make the roster this coming season, a year of development could do wonders for the Brazilian centre.
With great leaping ability and good defensive presence, Nogueira has impressed NBA executives at this year’s Las Vegas Summer league, posting 10 points, eight rebounds, and one block during his debut as an Atlanta Hawk against the Los Angeles Clippers.
German guard Dennis Schroder also made a strong case for his name on this season’s Hawks roster during summer league play, but there are issues about his on-ball defence. His offensive capabilities aren’t strong enough to make up for any of his defensive lapses, so if Schroder would like to suit up as a Hawk this upcoming season, he really needs to impress during training camp.
Muscala is heralded as the complete package; he can score and rebound while playing solid defence. Playing a full four years at Bucknell, Muscala received multiple awards and accolades, including becoming the Bison’s all-time leading scorer last year after averaging 18.7 points and 11.1 rebounds in his senior campaign.
While Nogueira might not be NBA-ready by the beginning of the season, Muscala experience means he has a better chance of making Atlanta’s regular season roster.
While the Hawks have certainly made some beneficial acquisitions and good draft picks, they still don’t have a good enough team to rival Eastern Conference behemoths like Miami and New York. They might do a little better that they did last season and make it a little further in the postseason.